Civil Liberties

NSA Head Wants Companies Immunized From Liability Over Surveillance Collaboration

Zero accountability will make everything all right


Even as he defends controversial government surveillance programs, the head of the National Security Agency is asking Congress for another authority sure to inflame critics — legal immunity for companies that help the feds fight cyberattackers.

Gen. Keith Alexander has petitioned Capitol Hill for months to give Internet service providers and other firms new cover from lawsuits when they rely on government data to thwart emerging cyberthreats.

That may be a powerful perk to persuade companies to work with Washington toward bolstering the country's digital defenses. But it's also a source of alarm for some civil liberties advocates, who are already peeved with the NSA's vast electronic spying regime. Those critics' new fear: Companies acting with the government's blessing in cyberspace could skirt legal accountability if they hit the wrong target.